The Concorde ... Airport '79

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The Concorde ... Airport '79
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Lowell Rich
Produced by Jennings Lang
Written by Jennings Lang (story)
Eric Roth (screenplay)
Starring Alain Delon
Susan Blakely
Robert Wagner
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Philip H. Lathrop
Edited by Dorothy Spencer
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates August 17, 1979
Running time 123 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $14 million
Box office $13,015,688[1]

The Concorde ... Airport '79 is a 1979 American disaster film (in the UK, it was released a year later as Airport '80: The Concorde). The film was the fourth and final installment of the Airport series. Panned by critics, the film also flopped at the box office. Produced on a then high budget of $14 million, it earned a little over $13 million,[1] thus ending the enormous financial success of the Airport franchise.


Kevin Harrison (Robert Wagner), a communist arms dealer, attempts to destroy an American-owned Concorde on its maiden flight after one of the passengers, Maggie Whelan (Susan Blakely), learns of his weapons sales to communist countries during the Cold War.

The Concorde takes off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Captain Paul Metrand (Alain Delon) makes conversation with Isabelle (Sylvia Kristel), the purser. They land at Dulles Airport.

Maggie Whalen (Blakely) recaps the arrival of the Concorde and reports on the "Goodwill" flight on the Concorde the following day, which leads to a story of future boyfriend Kevin Harrison (Wagner) and his Buzzard missile project. Carl Parker shows up at Maggie's house with a claim about documentation of illegal arms deals. Carl is shot before a passerby triggers a fire alarm, scaring the assailant away.

Capt. Joe Patroni introduces himself to Captain Metrand. The next morning, Maggie tells Harrison about her ordeal and the rumor of documents. Kevin claims someone is framing him. He sends Maggie off in a limo while he waits for his business partner Willie Halpern to arrive. Kevin tells Willie that Parker is dead, but they do not have the documents. Kevin asks what time the next launch of the Buzzard is. Willie replies 6:30; Kevin wants it delayed until 8:00 and the drone test reprogrammed.

Paul and Joe board the Concorde. It is difficult to determine the Pilot-in-Command as both of them are captains. Peter O'Neill (David Warner), the 2nd officer and flight engineer, is living with a controlling girlfriend.

Kevin surprises Maggie at the airline check-in desk to see her off. He asks if the documents showed up, but they have not. As he is walking away, Carl Parker's wife delivers the documents to Maggie as she steps on the mobile lounge. She looks them over on the lounge and realizes that Kevin lied to her.

The Concorde takes off from Washington/Dulles en route to Paris where, unbeknownst to the flight crew, an off-course SAM is headed straight for them. At company headquarters, Kevin tells his controllers to alert the government. The USAF scrambles F-15 fighter jets to intercept the missile just as it locks onto the Concorde. An F-15 shoots down the missile before it collides with the Concorde.

As the Concorde is approaching the European coastline, an F-4 Phantom II sent by Harrison engages the Concorde as French Air Force Mirages scramble to help the Concorde. The Mirages shoot down the F-4 and the Concorde continues to Paris, although to Le Bourget instead of Charles de Gaulle. The Concorde reaches the French coastline, landing with a damaged hydraulic system and just barely stopping at the last safety net. Captain Metrand and Isabelle invite Joe to dinner. Kevin arrives at de Gaulle, where an associate meets him, stating that he has another plan.

Joe, Paul and Isabelle meet for dinner with a date for Joe as promised by Paul. Maggie meets Kevin for dinner. He promises to go public with the documents but attempts to bribe Maggie into "polishing" his statement. After being paid by Kevin, a mechanic, Rollie, places a device in the Concorde's cargo door control unit, timed to open during flight.

As the passengers board the Concorde, a well-dressed woman (played by Charo) attempts to smuggle a dog aboard. She is caught by an alert Isabelle and leaves the aircraft. Inside the terminal, Rollie is in line at the security checkpoint when his money falls out of his pant leg. The X-ray technician attempts to return it, but Rollie pretends not to hear and runs off. The security guard tells his partner to call security before chases Rollie. Rollie runs onto the runway where the Concorde is taking off. The aircraft's exhaust kills Rollie and scatters the money he received from Kevin.

The aircraft is en route to Moscow when the automatic device opens the cargo door. When Captain Metrand investigates, he sees the carpet tear down the middle of the aisle, signifying the fuselage is under tremendous stress and the aircraft is about to break apart. The cargo door is ripped off, extensively damaging the aircraft and ripping the floor of the cabin from the aircraft as it spirals toward the ground. The airline founder's seat lodges in the hole, acting as a plug. The pilots attempt to fly to Innsbruck for an emergency landing, but realize they do not have enough fuel. Paul realizes they are flying towards a ski area he used to go to in the Alps; they could make a gear-up landing on a mountain-side.

The aircraft approaches the landing site while the ski patrol marks a runway. The aircraft lands successfully. Maggie gives a report of the accident to a news reporter and gives details about a major story she is about to release. Kevin hears the newscast and commits suicide. At the crash site, the last of the crew leaves the aircraft shortly before fuselage caves in and explodes from leaking fuel.



The film was the recipient of mostly negative reviews by critics upon its release, and 34 years later, scored 20% on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes[2] Film magazine Variety referred to it as an "unintentional comedy".[3] Boxoffice called it "so silly it's actually entertaining."[4]

Film critic Roger Ebert highlighted the film in his book I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, deriding the science in the scene where Patroni fires a flare gun out of the cockpit window.[5]

It is also listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[6]

Aircraft history[edit]

The Concorde aircraft used in the film first flew on January 31, 1975, and was registered as F-WTSC to the Aérospatiale aircraft company. It would be re-registered by Aérospatiale as F-BTSC and leased to Air France in 1976. In 1989, this Concorde carried Pope John Paul II.[7] On July 25, 2000, F-BTSC crashed Air France Flight 4590 in the small French town of Gonesse, killing all 109 passengers and crew on board, as well as four on the ground. At the time of the accident, F-BTSC had logged 11,989 hours and 4,873 cycles.[8]

Home video[edit]

The film was released on videocassette by MCA Home Video in North America. In 2004, a Region One (U.S. and Canada) DVD release was issued by Universal for "The Concorde: Airport '79" as part of an Airport Terminal Pack collection that included all four films in the "Airport" series. In Japan, the film was released on laserdisc as "Airport '80: The Concorde" on at least two occasions (1987 and 1999). A single disc was issued, followed by an inclusion in a box set containing all four "Airport" movies. The Japanese laserdisc was full frame (4x3) and included Japanese subtitles. Though disc labels and jacket include the name "Airport '80: The Concorde," the actual on-screen credit was the same as seen in North America and read, "The Concorde: Airport '79."

Television premiere[edit]

For the film's May 1982 network television premiere on ABC, additional footage was added to expand the film's running time so it could be shown in a three hour time slot.[9] A majority of the new footage consisted of scenes involving members of various government agencies investigating the background to Kevin Harrison. Actors playing investigators included Jose Ferrer, J.D. Cannon, Alan Fudge, and Ben Piazza. New scenes involving George Kennedy's family life and the death of his wife were also shot. In addition, deleted footage from the theatrical version was also reinstated into the television version. Despite the poor box office returns and the later parody Airplane! having put an end to the airplane disaster series, this TV version of the film came in tenth place in that week’s ratings with 18.3 million viewers and a 31 share of the viewing audience.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Airport - Box Office History
  2. ^ The Concorde ... Airport '79 at Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^ Staff (1978-12-31). "Review: "The Concorde – Airport ’79"". Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  4. ^ Staff (1979-09-20). "Feature Reviews: "The Concorde – Airport ’79"". Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (2005). I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 0-7407-0672-1. 
  6. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0. 
  7. ^ The Concorde SST Web Site: History of the aircraft that would become Air France Flight 4590
  8. ^ Aviation Safety Network: Description of the accident involving F-BTSC (Air France Flight 4590)
  9. ^ "On the Celluloid Chopping Block: THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79 (1979)". Video Junkie. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 

External links[edit]